Summary: There are many definitions of fatih, but the woman of this text gives a clear demonstration of what makes great faith. We learn that faith is persistent and always relys upon God’s grace and mercy.
What would you say if someone came up to you and asked you to define what “faith” is? Here is a short video clip of what some people said.
Faith is difficult to define because it is an abstract concept. It is perhaps easier to describe faith than it is to define it. When we see a specific action, we can say that it was an action based on faith. When we see how people handle various situations in life, we can say that they reacted in a way based on their faith.
In this story of the Canaanite woman with the demon possessed daughter, we see a demonstration of what Jesus called is a “great faith.” What was it about the woman and her actions that made her faith stand out?
A PERSISTENT WOMAN
Jesus was in the area of Tyre and Sidon—gentile territory. While there a Canaanite woman comes up to him and in a loud voice pleads with him to heal her daughter who is being tormented by a demon.
Jesus’ response to the woman is very troubling and scholars really don’t know what to make of it, though there are a few speculations. Jesus first ignores the woman. The disciples want him to send her away because she is making such a disturbance. Though Jesus doesn’t succumb to the requests of the disciples, he doesn’t just say “No” to the woman, he also insults her by calling her a dog.
I realize that sometimes Jesus does say “No” to our prayers. There are those times when we’re not making the right request. There are times when the request is right but the timing is off. With the woman, however, Jesus says that he won’t answer her prayer because of who she is. She’s a dog, a gentile, and not of the chosen people of God the Jews.
I would have quit right there. I would have called Jesus a bigoted creep and stormed off to look for someone else who could help me. That was not what the Canaanite woman did. She kept asking until Jesus granted her request. It is her persistence that caused Jesus to say that she was a woman of great faith.
MODELS OF PERSISTENCE
Last Sunday we read about Peter walking on water. I suggested that one of the main points of this story is that if we want to do great things for God, impact the lives of the people around us, and walk on water we have got to take a step of faith and get out of the boat. Doing whatever it takes to glorify God in our lives was a mark of great faith. This Sunday we add the characteristic of persistence. Persistence is a necessary ingredient in life.
When Faye battled cancer last year, we were persistent in our prayers and in our faith. The Lord didn’t answer our prayers the way we asked. We asked for no cancer. That didn’t happen. We asked for no radiation, and that didn’t happen. We asked for no chemotherapy, and we still went through three treatments. Still we persisted that God would see us through and bring us safely to the other side, and that is exactly what God did.
One of the greatest saints and examples of faith is a little woman called Mother Teresa. How did she do what she did? One of the key ingredients to her faith was that of persistence. She received her call from God to start her ministry in 1946. She had to persist in fight the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for four years until she was finally granted permission by the Vatican in 1950. One would think that that doing such great work and being such a devoted Christian that she would have the remarkably close relationship with God. This was not the case. There were months and years when she did not feel God’s presence in her life, but she just kept doing what she felt called to do. Mother Teresa was persistent.